Great American Nude, # 52
Date 1963
Dimensions 152.3 x 121.9 x 4 cm
Inventory ID UID 102-616
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In this painting, the white sheet at the bottom, on which the nude is reclining, is fabric that is stuck on (the painter says he prefers to use these materials, as he feels unable to paint them). The two characters holding cocktails result from the enlargement of a photograph stuck to the canvas. They are not identified but they reflect the image conveyed by American society. The homage to Matisse is expressed not just in the odalisque, the great nude, but also in the reproduction of the painting in the upper left-hand corner. It is the 1941 painting Deux Jeunes Filles, Robe Jaune, Robe Écossaise [Two Young Girls, Yellow Dress, Tartan Dress] (oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm, Musée Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis), which also features two portraits on either side of the central group. To the right, a red curtain with a white border allows a view of a park landscape borrowed from an old painting. One can sense in it the detail of a Claude Monet at the start of his career, a Frédéric Bazille or an American impressionist such as William Merrit Chase, but it has not been possible to identify the work. The little table in the background, the black table behind the nude, the armchair, the vase of flowers or fruits, treated in a smooth, impersonal way, all add to the ambiguity of the scene. The painter explained that, in relation to his American Nudes series, he had 'given up from the start on giving them a face [...]. In fact, I wanted a kind of movement to flow through the painting and certain things, an excess of detail, for example, could bridle that movement’. Every painting contains a reference to the United States, with portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or fragments of the national flag, in this case with the stars on the right. AC
Purchased directly from the artist by Michael D. Abrams; acquired at Christie’s, New York, 3 May 1994.